You Could Be Happy. Today.

One year and five months ago, I thought I would never be happy. I felt a loss that I never even knew was possible: the loss of “true love”. I remember growing up with overly emotional friends who swore on their entire lives that their significant other was “The One”, and when those relationships ended they went about their daily lives as if nothing truly mattered anymore. And while I was always a good shoulder to cry on, I wasn’t entirely sympathetic. I thought it was weak to put your happiness in the hands of another like that. It’s just a relationship, I thought. They’ll move on. I’ll never find myself in that situation.

Fast forward over ten years later, and there I was, sobbing into my pillow. My cell phone still in my hand, my fingers clinching it as if it was my very life force. I kept re-reading the texts — yes, texts! — over and over again. “I don’t want to be with you anymore. I’m with someone new.” And I kept repeating the same thing to myself, like a new mantra for my new single life: I will never be happy. I just lost my true love. I will never be happy.

I was right in that same place that I judged so many years before. I now understood how others felt when their relationships crashed right at their feet.

Even though I could relate, I still knew that I couldn’t put the blame entirely on the person who had broken my heart. I knew that I needed to find happiness on my own. I needed this like I needed air to breathe and water to drink and goals in life. Happiness needed to be a very important point on my agenda, and I needed to make this my priority, stat.

And at first, it was extremely difficult. I was so unhappy, I didn’t care about my appearance anymore. I looked like the breakup victim of a sappy rom-com, minus the whimsical happy ending or the serendipitous encounter with someone who would prove to be my saving grace, my prince charming to pull me out of my fog. No, this wasn’t a movie. This was just my life. My messy hair, dirty t-shirt, same socks from yesterday, old fast food bags strewn across my bedroom and my car, life. And no one was going to magically come and save me from it.

And no one was going to magically come and save me from it…..except myself.

It didn’t happen overnight. I remember glancing in the mirror one day and not recognizing myself. I had always heard this expression, but I never knew how true it could be until I was the one standing in front of my reflection, mouth turned up in horror. Gross! Who was this person? When did I get such huge bags under my eyes? Why was there a piece of paper in my hair? What was I doing? 

I started with the simplest part: my looks. I pouted my lips and put on a little lipstick. I added mascara to my teeny tiny lashes. I instantly felt better. And more importantly, I felt better for myself. I wasn’t primping for another terrible first date. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone. I just wanted to look at myself and feel better. Before I knew it, I was doing more. I was washing my clothes and setting out nice outfits. I was looking forward to the next day. I started getting up earlier and taking long slow sips of coffee as I sat at my desk, reflecting on all of the things I was going to accomplish that day.

Happy New Year! Had it already been four months since the dreaded breakup? I had to pinch myself. It seemed just yesterday that I was staining my pillows with salty tears and cruddy mascara. Now I was planning a New Year’s Eve party with my friends. I poured my heart into every little detail, because it made me giddy to think of how well the party plans were coming together.

I am not usually one for resolutions, but I could feel such positive change happening in me, and I didn’t want to lose that flame. I wanted to feed it and fuel it into a bright and passionate fire. So I made a very simple resolution that New Years: simply say yes more. Say yes to good things in life. Not for anyone else, but for myself.

The first thing I said “Yes” to was a trip to New York City. I had to use one of my credit cards to pay for part of the trip, but the rest I saved myself and a few short months later, I stood at the top of the Empire State Building and realized that I was seeing one of my dreams come to fruition. I had achieved this all on my own. And somehow, that made the dream taste even sweeter.

Summer came. The longer days and sunny skies made me feel a bit forlorn. I was doing a lot better post-breakup, but I was still very far from being happy on my own. I reflected on this, a lot, and decided to use my reflection for good. I could either sit around wishing I had someone to spend the sunny days with, wishing I had a partner to take silly bike rides with along the pier; wishing I had an adventurous love who wanted to try several new types of sushi at a hip restaurant on a balmy night, or I could wish I had a relaxing soul to sit with on my porch, staring out at the long and slow sunsets of San Diego; or … I could do those things anyway. Did I need someone to be with me in order to enjoy the summer sun? Did I need someone in order to feel happiness during what is possibly the most happiest time of the year?

One day after work, I sat in traffic on my way home. The same traffic I always sat in when I left work. The longer days made it seem surreal as cars honked and buzzed around one another, all in a rush to get nowhere fast. I glanced up ahead and saw the exit signs for Mission Bay. I realized something suddenly: everyday I took the same path home from work, and everyday I passed a place that many people come to visit for vacation, without even a second glance. And here I was sitting in traffic, again. Not today.

I veered my car off to the right and exited the busy highway. And then I pulled into Mission Bay, and I walked along the waterfront park. I found a spot on a bench and I pulled out a pen and a small amount of paper that I had found in my car. I started writing. I didn’t even know what I wanted to write, and it didn’t matter. Before long, I found myself writing why it was so important for me to be happy. Not to just try to be happy. But to want it, too.

I teetered like this for several months. I spent time reflecting alone with myself and my thoughts, no matter how deep or dark or scary those thoughts could get. I faced them in silent reverie. I armed myself with my optimism as my shield and my recent experiences as my sword and I faced my thoughts like mini battles with my psyche. When I wasn’t doing that, I was still saying “yes” to things that would make me happy. Yes, I will go to Vegas this weekend! Yes, I will attend that live music show. Yes, I’ll try out this first date.

Yes, I will make sure that I am happy. Yes, I will take responsibility for that, all on my own. Yes, I can do this.

One year and five months ago, I thought I would never be happy. But here I am, one year and five months later, smiling for no reason at all, invigorated with all the possibilities, at all of the things that I can say yes to, inspired by all of the reflections of the world around me, and hopeful that I can achieve anything, as long as I believe in myself. It might sound like the last cheesy lines of a fable or fairy tale, but the truth is a lot less magical than it all seems. In a fairy tale, someone comes along and they save you, instantly. What they never tell you is that in real life, it might take time. It might take one year and five months. And in real life, it’s up to you to save yourself. And yes, you can absolutely do that. Why not start … today?

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A Letter to a Slightly Anonymous Atheist

I was perusing Humans of New York on Facebook today when I came upon this:

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The best part of this HONY share was the comment to the man’s story. The first comment, written by Nik Hansen, reads:

“I’m an atheist, but it makes me sad that he had to start his story with a disclaimer like this. It’s important that in our efforts to promote tolerance we don’t shut down the dialog that makes that tolerance necessary. I don’t need to believe in God myself to appreciate the positive impact faith can have on people’s lives.”

One of the hardest things I struggle with as an individual is why people of different faiths can’t get along (because let me tell you, we really should be able to.) Just like with other forms of discrimination, people who discriminate against any religious belief are holding back society.

Atheists are faced with religious folk who think they are bad, evil, or terrible people because they don’t believe in God; and Christian/monotheistic people are faced with those who immediately think they are delusional, crazy, overbearing, etc. (And that’s only two examples, of course. I recognize that it definitely happens with other beliefs as well.)

We should be able to believe what we believe, and not be faced with such prejudice, as long as we are making a positive impact in our life and in the lives of others. Whenever I see people on my Facebook feed bashing Christianity, it makes me feel sad for those individuals at my church who spend so much time helping others and never judging; accepting all walks of life, faith, sexual orientation, race, and background.

And whenever I see Christian believers bashing a life perspective that they are unfamiliar with, it makes me sad that they are ultimately making all Christian believers look completely prejudicial, racist, and/or intolerant. They hide behind religion like a mask, because they’re afraid to say the truth: that they are simply racist. Or they are simply intolerant.

Christianity never, not even once, had anything to do with being racist, being intolerant, oppressing people, or opposing others. Yes, there are some guidelines, but none of them had to do with forcing others to do something you think they should be doing.

Religion in general has to do with yourself. Looking inside and deciding what you should be doing. (Spoiler alert: the answer is helping others, regardless of who they are!)

So I just want to say thank you, random Atheist and awesome person of Facebook. I’m not atheist, but I completely understand someone who is, because I’ve been there once before. It’s not easy to decide what life means, and no one person, no one religion, no one belief system can really decide that for everyone as a whole. But that’s another aspect of what makes us all different, as humans, and you’re right: we should be able to communicate with each other about that without feeling the need to jump to judgement.

So thank you for your wise words. You have made a Christian woman very happy today.

Glitz and glam and wonder and excitement and independence!

Today is Monday! But before it, came Sunday. And no, this isn’t the backwards version of Rebecca Black’s infamous song. My point is, I like to relax on Sundays and enjoy my alone time. It has become a ritual of sorts, to the point where I will hole myself up in my room and not talk to anyone face to face for most of the day.

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Yesterday, I had a great conversation via instant messenger (yes, I still use it) with a friend of mine during this downtime. I was in my room holed up alone, with nothing but my thoughts and my heavy metal Spotify radio station searing in the background. I began to discuss where I was a year ago with this friend. And I realized, I’ve been in the same exact spot for two years in a row.

This time last year, I was on a temporary split from my now ex-boyfriend. And when the New Year came along, I told myself that I was fine and I put on a brave face, only to lose it all in a frenzy of tears in the bathroom. The ball had dropped and I looked around and realized everyone had someone, except for me.

This year, I’m in the same place but I’m not in the same state. I am now permanently split from said ex, but I’m not regretting it this time. I’m not hung up on what ifs and what could bes, and I’m not depressed that I am alone.

Because as I said, every Sunday, I enjoy and relish in my alone time.

This epiphany made me want to look forward to the New Year. This year, I can already tell that I’m in a much different mindset. It’s so easy to pretend to be happy, but it’s not easy to lie to yourself. That’s why a mere facade will wash away as quick as a leaf in a river. 

This year there is no facade. I want to focus on New Years with the appropriate enthusiasm of a 20-something year old with so much ahead of her. My friends and I are even planning to throw a party, and the mere thought of it brings a wild inspiration to my heart.

An inspiration I never would have felt last year. And yet, last year I was in the same place.

It’s amazing what your mindset can do to a situation. I can use my emotions to drown out my future endeavors and focus on the negative, or I can use them to create my own inspirational visions.

I choose the visionary route. And what a better way to kick off 2014 than by crossing something off of my 30 before 30 list:

21. Throw a fabulous party!

 

Keep checking back for updates on this party. It’s going to be glitz and glam and wonder and excitement and independence — all of the feelings that I was missing out on last year.

I won’t be missing them this year.

I let in love over hate

UntitledI feel a bit chagrin right now. I found the Twitter profile of the girl that my ex left me for. I decided to do what everyone does on the internet and poke around a little. Or at least, I am telling myself that everyone does this, because I obviously could not fight the urge. I was curious to know how this girl felt around the time that my ex left me for her.

I found out she called me a ‘Stalker’ because I went to the same event that my ex had attended. The funny part is — the event was hosted by my friends. She also boasted about how she wanted to punch me so badly, despite the fact that I’ve never even spoken to her before. She spent a few more characters in her Twitter world talking about me, ironically telling the Internet that I should ‘get a life’ and ‘learn to take a clue’. Ironic because she was spending so much of her life hung up on a girl who didn’t even look in her direction that night. Someone she had never even said “Hello” to.

I didn’t do anything else except close the browser and learn my lesson: to not spend time worrying about what other people think or say about you. Especially if that person is supporting and dating someone who constantly lied to you and treated you like crap. To constantly surround myself with unhealthy people would be happiness suicide, and I realized that maybe that’s why my ex was with her now. They both seemed to be hung up on the negative in life. They both have violent tendencies. They both let in hate before they let in love.

I’ll admit, I wanted to give her a few choice words. I wished I could tell her, to her face, “You know what’s fun? Sloppy seconds. Have fun, bitch!” But of course, I didn’t say anything. What would be the point? I would look like those girls on Instagram who are constantly posting pictures and quotes about “killing hoes” or other slogans they derived from hip hop songs about how all girls want to steal their man. Any response would come off as self-centered and conceited on my part, especially since I am no longer with the guy in the middle of all of this. Basically…saying anything in retaliation to such pettiness would only make me just as petty.

I’m only human, so saying that these kind of things don’t hurt me would be a bold-faced lie. But do I need to let it ruin my day or even the next five minutes of my life? I don’t think so! Sometimes, girl friends will make you feel better by saying, “Well, you’re prettier than her” or “You’re way smarter than her.” But you know what’s truly important? I have a bigger heart than she does.

I let in love before I let in hate.

Violence and calling people names is beneath me, even for people I don’t like. An argument was rarely won by slinging around insults, and a point was rarely made with dirty name calling. The only thing I can do in this life is stay true to myself, and doing that has made me feel so much better than any vindictive, jealous, or downright petty comment ever could.

It also made me realize something very important. When I split from my ex, I decided not to love for awhile. I decided that love was too difficult and not worth the risk of enduring a broken heart. I was told by friends and family that my big heart can be a blessing but also a weakness if I let others take advantage of it. I vowed to think twice before using my heart to love others.

And while I do agree with them in some context, I also see my big heart in a different light now. I see the other end of the spectrum: dark and full of hate for people that one doesn’t even know. And I realize I’m different, because I let that love in.

So I need to continue to do that. I need to stay true to myself. I need to remind myself that a broken heart does not change who I am. I don’t want to be a bitter girl hurling insults because I’m afraid or jealous of others. I don’t want to let hate in. I always want to let love in.

Fearless

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I watched Insidious (Chapter 1) today and I felt very proud of myself. One of my biggest fears is that unknown depth that could or could not come from death. It’s almost ironic to be afraid of dying, because I find myself preoccupied with my “second life” before I’ve even given myself the chance to live the first! Or maybe there isn’t a second one at all? Death is a mystery that I am not excited to solve.

But to fear it is something else entirely. I’ve been working on this fear over the past year because I know I want to live my life to the fullest from beginning to end, no matter what that end may be. The mere thought tends to make my mind race and my heart overload, but I’ve finally gotten to the point where watching a scary movie about that very thing (sort of — no spoilers here I promise), makes me feel excited, not terrified.

Excited, because I am reminding myself that it’s just a movie for sheer entertainment, and boy was I entertained.

I have a few fears: thanatophobia (the fear of death) and arachnophobia. But I think fears can make us healthy, if we learn how to deal with them. I have a theory that those who claim to have no fears are actually afraid of their own fearlessness. Fear can remind us to live, because moments are precious. Fear can remind us that we are living. The statement of being “Scared to death” is ironic to me, since I feel that being frightened usually makes one feel very alive — once all is said and done, and you realize you’re completely fine.

Or maybe you’re not completely fine, but you know you will be, or can be. There is an upside to fear, so I have decided not to eradicate mine completely, but to face it from time to time and remind myself that I’m still living.

 

And so, with a very, very cautious (and yes — slightly fearful) heart, I add on to my 30 before 30 list:

20. Face my arachnophobia.

I obviously can’t just go out and face my fear of death, unless I see a classic game of Russian roulette in my future. (Which trust me, I definitely don’t!) But I can start with the other one. I haven’t decided how I will face my fear of spiders, but all I know is one day, I want to be able to say, I confronted a spider and I was not afraid, and mostly importantly — I’m still living!

Expectations vs. Reality

I had my own 500 Days of Summer moment yesterday and the results were shocking, in the best way possible. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it brilliantly describes love by comparing our own naive and sometimes outlandish expectations with what really occurs. It talks about how we ignore the bad so that we can tell ourselves something is only good.large_500_days_of_summer_blu-ray11

I had one of these moments so hardcore. After years of waiting for that certain someone to finally commit to me, only to find out that he has moved on to someone new (and so quickly!), I decided to do what any sane human would do, and I deleted all of my digital memories of him. Photos on Instagram? Gone. Photo albums on Facebook? Also gone. Deleted from my G Chat, perfect. I remembered how many conversations we had via Facebook messages (over 1,000 messages once I actually went to check them), and before deleting them all, I decided to read them. I expected to see bittersweet memories of what I could have had, if I had only tried harder! Loved harder!

But what I expected was much different than the reality.

What I actually found was conversation after conversation where I put myself on a limb only to be rejected. I found so many times when he passed me over to do something else with his friends. I even found her name — the one he is with now. I feel so dumb for not realizing earlier that I never had him. Even back then, I had already lost him to what he truly wanted.

I thought this realization would make me sad, but it didn’t. After the dumb feeling wore off, this realization enlightened me. It taught me a new lesson. It reminded me that I don’t need to grieve for something I never truly had from the beginning. It reminded me that I didn’t need to feel that I had screwed up or I had prevented something great from happening. Great things and great loves will happen to me. I just have to remind myself to look for the real people who care for me, and not expect it from the fake people who don’t.

At the end of the day, a reality check isn’t such a bad thing. We are given them on a daily basis and they usually end up making us feel like we have egg on our face. I say let those reality checks make you feel stronger. It’s only natural to want life to be a dream, but if you have to wake up, wake up refreshed and ready to take on the next challenge with clarity.

And so I add number 19 to my 30 Before 30 list:

19. Learn to be happy on my own.

Why?

I created this 30 before 30 list because it’s so easy for me to think that I should give up on all the great things life has to offer. It’s exactly like this quote from Stephen Fry:

 

I think it’s a trap of adolescence and young adulthood. Because let’s face it, young adults are like adolescents who don’t realize they’ve grown up yet. Living life is more than just doing it,it’s a realization that you can. As an adolescent, you can’t. Don’t have money, don’t have permission, don’t have a way to get there or a car to drive. As an adult…what’s stopping you? Probably the same things — but now that you’re older you can do something about those things. No excuses!

 

I will not make excuses for being unhappy. I will not give up. Maybe I’ll take a class or something. And stop listening to such sad music.